Having your identity stolen is a devastating experience that is not only very difficult to prove, but also extremely complicated. The methods in which identity thieves work range from basic dumpster diving to elaborate, tech-savvy crime.
Stolen Wallets and Purses
This is still a very practiced form of identity theft. It provides instant access to cash, identification, credit cards, and checkbooks. Never leave your wallet or purse unattended. Carry check books separately and don't carry credit cards unless necessary.
Victims claim that 88% of stolen information came from the trash. Americans get 4 million tons of junk mail annually. Any document you put into the trash may have personal information such as your street address, email address, bank information, pre-approved credit card offers, and more. Shred or burn all documents and junk mail. If you want to take it a step further, enroll in a program that reduces pre-approved credit card offers as a means of proactively protecting your identity, like LifeLock Standard™.
Today's technology enables phones to create photos and videos of private information that you are accessing in public. Memorizing information given either verbally or written is also a traditional method still used today. Try to avoid speaking loudly, and write personal information down if you're being asked for it. Use your hand or paper to cover information as you fill out paperwork. Avoid sitting next to people or in a position where your information can be seen.
Thieves will take other people's mail, which is a felony. They can then use this information to change the address and have mail forwarded to their address. In 2010, change of address was the most used method to gain access to victim's accounts. To prevent mail theft, invest in a mailbox with a lock, inform the post office when you'll be out of town so postal officials can hold your mail, don't leave your mail overnight in your box, and drop mail off in the mail slots at the post office.
Child Identity Theft
Your child's personal information can be used to open bank accounts, lines of credit, and more. Often, children's credit reports go unchecked. Identity theft may prevent children from receiving drivers licenses, approvals for student loans, the ability to purchase a house, and set up utilities. Purchase an identity-theft protection plan that covers the entire family, and keep your child's personal information locked in a safe place.
Phishing, SMSishing, and Vishing
Thieves are using emails, texts, and phone calls to imitate reputable businesses to either get you to reveal your personal information or to send them some sort of "payment". In either form of the communication, they may direct you to a false website with the intent to steal your identity and personal information. Never give out your personal information, and always double-check a source by notifying the company you are being contacted by.
Thieves can create and duplicate legitimate shopping websites. Victims may think they are purchasing a product when their personal information is actually being given to an identity thief. Always check a website's security icons when shopping online, don't store your personal and financial information, and use a separate credit card for shopping.
Skimming and Overlay Devices
By accidentally swiping your card through a skimmer or overlay, your card information is stored for later use by a thief. Overlays are installed in ATM machines to have your card information transferred to another computer device for later use by a thief. To help reduce likelihood of theft, pay in cash as much as possible, go to the bank instead of using ATMs, and cover the pinpad with your hand when entering account numbers.
There isn't much you can do to avoid having your identity stolen when it comes to data breaches. The best thing you can do is change passwords regularly, don't use a password more than once, never give out your social security number unless it's required, and purchase identity theft protection.